Homeschooling: How to Build a Curriculum
Are you new to homeschooling? Do you feel lost or out-of-your-depth when it comes to planning a curriculum for your students? Are you looking for ideas on how to enhance your at-home learning program?
Over the years, I've received numerous emails from PACE customers asking for advice on these topics. Parents want to build a great homeschooling curriculum and productive environment for their children, but they don't always know where to start.
Based on my own experience teaching my children at home in the '90s and early 2000s, alongside numerous conversations with parents through the past few decades, I've compiled below a list of topics that will help you navigate the world of homeschooling---starting with curriculum!
BACKGROUND - MY STORY
In the '90s and 2000s, when I was teaching my two children, homeschooling was definitely not as widespread or accepted as it is today. Many well-intentioned friends and family would ask: Why are you pulling your kids out of a perfectly good school? What about socialization? How are you going to teach them science when you know nothing about it? (That one particularly stung because it was so true!)
It was hard not letting these comments get to me at first because I was testing uncharted waters and was full of doubts myself. I was convinced, though, that I could give my kids a better education at home than they were receiving at their school, and I was more than willing to give it a try.
I found a mom in my local area who was homeschooling her kids and relied heavily on her experience and advice as I started teaching. As time went by and we got into a routine, I realized that I was forming a wonderful relationship with my children while having the privilege of teaching them and watching them discover the world of learning. The pleasure I experienced from the extra time with my son and daughter was unexpected, but it helped forge a bond I still thankfully hold with them today.
Okay, you might be thinking, but what did you actually do? How did you start?
I started with building a curriculum, which, once you've made the decision to homeschool, is the first step in building a healthy and productive school at home.
I'll address other intro-to-homeschooling topics on this blog as the weeks go by, so make sure to come back and check for more later!
Choosing a curriculum is one of the most important decisions you will make as a homeschool parent, and it is one fraught with questions and decisions.
- What curriculum should I choose?
- Should I create my own lesson plans?
- Should I buy a set curriculum?
- Is hiring a tutor a good idea?
- Would co-op classes be helpful?
All of these options are good and they're all doable - and you can do a combination of them.
First, however, you have to decide what you're looking for and what kind of learning environment you want to create in your home.
Some questions to ask yourself to help define your goals and objectives:
Do you want to teach your children primarily, or do you want to oversee their learning using a set curriculum and/or tutors?
Do you want to simulate a school classroom with regular periods for classes each day and homework assignments?
Do you prefer to hire tutors to teach special classes online, such as foreign languages or electives, or perhaps more time-consuming (prep-wise) core subjects like English and History?
Is there a vibrant homeschool community in your are that offers co-op classes you might be interested in?
Once you've sat with these questions for a bit, read below to see my recommendations for each different scenario.
MY ADVICE BASED ON YOUR ANSWERS
1. Set curricula: If you are not totally confident in teaching multiple subjects to multiple age groups, you should probably buy a set curriculum. These come in many forms, some of which are more flexible than others. Feel free to google around and search for homeschool curricula, but below are some of my favorites.
Complete Catholic Homeschool curricula:
Click here for a comparison of Catholic curricula.
Complete Non-denominational & Secular Homeschool curricula:
Bi-lingual & Spanish-speaking Homeschool curricula:
Curricula by Subject:
Math: I can't say enough good about Saxon Math. We used it all the way through for both of my children, and it was head-over-heels better than any other curricula we tried!
Science: My favorite high school science resource is Apologia by Jay Wile - a bit pricey, but excellent and Christian-based.
Spanish Language: Having a foreign language background, I taught my children Spanish using my old high school textbook Ud. y Yo. I've never found a better text, and you can purchase it on Amazon.
Religion: I used a variety of resources for religion over the years, but our favorite was the Faith & Life series.
History: I find there to be quite a bias in history textbooks written post-1990 or so, which is why I always used "older" books when teaching my children history - textbooks released in the '60s or '70s, such as the fabulous books by VM Hillyer. However, some modern resources for ancient history are fantastic, such as the Dorling Kindersley products.
Character Education: Of course, I can't help but recommend PACE as part of your curriculum! Right after I started homeschooling, I decided that I wanted to teach my children about good character and virtuous behavior, mostly because of the changes I was seeing in the culture. I searched for a character education program but couldn’t find anything that was more than a quick introduction to a “character concept,” as they were called, and not much more than a quote and a brief discussion of the concept. Then I discovered William Bennett’s Book of Virtues! After looking through that tome and reading the stories to my kids, I decided to write my own curriculum using Bennett’s book as the basis. I incorporated the virtues with stories from the book, Biblical study, and classic literature. And that is how I developed my Character Education curriculum, PACE! :)
2. Lesson plans: If you feel capable of having a bit more control over what your children are learning, you can create your own lesson plans. Although it is work-intensive, I found it to be well worth the time. You can scour the internet, conferences, book fairs, bookstores, and library sales for purchasing textbooks and then craft lesson plans based on your children's grades and academic levels.
3. Tutors: Tutoring services are becoming more and more common, especially in this age of virtual education where people are opting not to send their kids back to traditional schools amidst the pandemic. I have found tutors to be invaluable as an educational resource. If there's a subject you don't feel completely confident in teaching, don't have the time to teach, or one that your child specifically struggles with, a tutor can be a godsend. If you don't think you can afford a private tutor, many tutoring or coaching services are offering "pod" classes, where you can link up with other families to contract group tutoring. One of the best tutoring resources I know of is Main Line Academic Coaches.
4. Co-op classes: Co-op classes are also getting more popular these days. Some are basically "schools away from home," which are almost the same thing as sending your child to school, but they are usually faith-based and in a small class setting. Others offer classes to pick and choose from and take at different times. If you join a local Homeschool Support Group, you'll receive lots of information about classes that are offered.
Hopefully this post will give you an idea of where to start in designing your own homeschool curriculum. If you have more questions, feel free to email email@example.com, and check this space for more homeschooling blog posts in the near future!